Meet the Boy at the Center of a Major Supreme Court Case

PHOTO: Menachem Zivotofsky sits in front of the Supreme Court in this, Nov. 7, 2011, file photo.Courtesy Na'ama Lewin
Menachem Zivotofsky sits in front of the Supreme Court in this, Nov. 7, 2011, file photo .

What is a boy who is just 12 doing at the center of a longstanding dispute in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Ask the Supreme Court.

The justices are hearing a case brought by the parents of Menachem Zivotofsky. He was born in Jerusalem in 2002 and his American parents sought to have "Israel" listed on his passport pursuant to a law passed by Congress.

But the State Department refuses to recognize the law.

Since Israeli and Palestinian leaders have long been engaged in a dispute over the status of Jerusalem, the Executive branch avoids any official act that might be perceived as taking sides.

As a result, if a U.S. citizen is born in the ancient city, his place of birth is listed as "Jerusalem" instead of "Israel."

The Zivotofskys sued seeking to compel the State Department to follow the law. They argue that Congress has broad power over passports, and the case is about the identity of a passport holder.

But Lawyers for the State Department frame the issue quite differently. In briefs they say that the status of Jerusalem is "one of the most sensitive and longstanding disputes in the Arab-Israel conflict." They argue the law "impermissibly impinges" on the Executive Branch's constitutional authority to "decide whether an on what terms to recognize a foreign sovereign".

Menachem will be in Court, listening to a major separation of powers case that bears his name.

Get real-time updates as this story unfolds. To start, just "star" this story in ABC News' phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here. To be notified about our live weekend digital reports, tap here.